Fantasy Basketball: Player Usage Ratings To Watch

RotoWire explains how fluctuating usage rates can affect certain players' fantasy numbers.

Desmond Bane’s increased usage rate has helped him become a valuable fantasy asset this season.

Usage rate is a key stat for fantasy basketball. It is defined as the percentage of team plays used by a player when they are on the floor. It’s important because it indicates how large of a role a player has within his team’s offense, which means how many opportunities he’ll have to score. Let’s dive into this stat and highlight some players who have seen noteworthy increases or decreases compared to last season and what it means for their fantasy outlook moving forward.

Players on the Rise

Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors

Siakam was one of the leaders of the Raptors’ scoring attack last season, posting a 25.8% usage rate. It enabled him to average 22.8 points per game, which nearly matched his previous career high. He was also efficient, shooting 49.4% from the field. Add in his 8.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.1 three-pointers and 1.3 steals per game, and he was an excellent fantasy option.

As good as he was last season, he’s been even better through eight games. His averages are up across the board, including a whopping 25.6 points per game. What’s interesting is that he actually has been slightly less efficient, shooting 47.7% from the field. His 3-point attempts are up, but the main reason for his increased scoring is his 30.4% usage rate. While he has been aided by Fred VanVleet (back) missing a couple of games, Siakam will get plenty of shot attempts from here on out, making him a top fantasy option when combined with his other areas of production.

Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies

After a rookie season in which he only logged 22 minutes per game, Bane averaged 30 minutes during his breakout campaign last season. He was one of the most dangerous 3-point shooters in the league, averaging 3.0 3-pointers and hitting 43.6% of his attempts from behind the arc. But he had a modest 23.1% usage rate.

Bane has seen a more prominent role within the Grizzlies’ scoring attack this season, posting a 27.9% usage rate on his way to 24.9 points and 4.3 3-pointers per game. It is important to note that Ja Morant missed a game, Dillon Brooks missed three games, and both Jaren Jackson Jr. (foot) and Zaire Williams (knee) have yet to take the floor. Bane should see his usage rate decline when everyone is healthy, but with how well he’s playing, he’s still likely to finish with a higher mark than last season.

Keldon Johnson, San Antonio Spurs

Johnson became a better 3-point shooter last season, averaging 2.1 made 3s per game and shooting 39.8% from behind the arc. He also logged a career-high 32 minutes per game, which helped him average 17.0 points. In terms of usage rate, though, his 21.3% mark was nothing to write home about.

The Spurs dove further into their rebuild during the offseason, sending Dejounte Murray to the Hawks. That’s left Johnson as one of their top-scoring options, and he’s recorded a 27.2% usage rate. He’s also shot a robust 43.5% from deep, propelling him to averages of 23.9 points and 3.9 3-pointers. There is minimal talent around him, so Johnson should continue to be one of San Antonio’s top scorers moving forward. The one concern with him for fantasy, though, is if the Spurs give him nights off down the stretch as they try to improve their draft positioning.

Players on the Decline

Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

It’s not often that you see the reigning MVP on this list. Jokic was in an ideal situation from a production standpoint last season with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. out with injuries. He took full advantage, posting a 31.9% usage rate on his way to averaging 27.1 points and shooting 58.3% from the field. 

With Porter and Murray back in the fold, Jokic’s usage rate has declined to 23.5% this season. He’s still averaging 20.3 points, thanks to him shooting 59.4% from the field. As long as Porter and Murray steal healthy, Jokic will not have a usage rate over 31% again. However, he has a 26.5% usage rate for his career, so he should see his current number rise as the season progresses. If there is a benefit to him from Porter and Murray returning, it’s that he’s averaging 9.1 assists per game.

DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls

Adding DeRozan proved to be huge for the Bulls last season. He had one of the best campaigns of his career, providing 27.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. While he didn’t offer much from behind the arc, he shot 50.4% from the field, further adding to his fantasy value. 

The Bulls returned mostly the same roster this season, with Lonzo Ball (knee) still sidelined. However, DeRozan has seen his usage rate fall from 31.8% to 28.1%. Zach LaVine has even missed three games, which makes DeRozan’s decline even more noteworthy. Make no mistake about it, DeRozan is still one of the focal points of the Bulls’ scoring attack. However, if LaVine and Nikola Vucevic remain healthy, it might be difficult for him to replicate his usage rate and scoring numbers from last season.

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks

Barrett reached a career milestone last season, averaging 20.0 points per game for the first time. He didn’t do it on the strength of his efficiency, given that he shot just 40.8% from the field and 71.4% from the free-throw line. He did it because of increased shot attempts from behind the arc and his 27.6% usage rate.

The Knicks made a big splash this summer, bringing over Jalen Brunson from the Mavericks. He’s not a big-time scorer, but his addition was likely to take some shot attempts away from Barrett. That has come to fruition, with Barrett now posting a 24.3% usage rate. He’s also continued to have efficiency issues, leaving him to average 17.9 points and 1.3 points per game. With Brunson in the fold and a big part of the Knicks’ future, don’t expect Barrett to match last season’s production and usage rate.